Monday, June 06, 2011

Government attack on Baba Ramdev - Wisdom or Folly?

In India, it’s yet another protest by fasting. After Gandhian leader Anna Hazare, we have now seen the famous yoga guru Baba Ramdev locking horns with the ruling Congress-led UPA government by declaring a fast unto death. But why was he fasting?

He had a few anti-corruption demands such as declaring black money stashed abroad as national assets, framing a separate law on national assets and enforcing strict punishment for the guilty. All his demands were obviously for the good of the country, and most people agree with him; especially, the millions of yoga enthusiasts who literally worship him for his teachings.

But his attempt at this ‘satyagraha’ was, however, brutally cut short by the Delhi Police who, on Saturday, in a late night crackdown at the Ramlila Maidan, tear-gassed his followers, evicted him from Delhi, transferred him to his ashram in Haridwar, and banned him from entering Delhi.

Why did the police suddenly do this? Well, they say, it’s simple. He was only given permission in that place in Delhi for conducting yoga classes and not for mass protests. Also, the permission was for only a few thousands and not for the tens of thousands that began assembling to encourage the Baba. A security threat would have arisen if the crowds kept increasing.

Now, this rapid action can only show us the wisdom, or the folly, of the UPA government, depending on our point of view. To be or not to be aggressive? That was a question the government must have contemplated much before sending its police brigade to confront the powerful guru; one who could direct the masses with his fingertips, just like he does with his various 'yogasanas'.

But why did the government take this enormous risk? If we backtrack a bit, we will see that the government’s top brass had met Baba Ramdev for talks, and later announced to the media that they had agreed to his demands and he had agreed to give up his fast. But he quickly responded by saying that he never said he would quit fasting, and that the officials were all liars. Maybe that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back!

And so, soon came the police. And apprehend him they did.  The government now says he has some other hidden political agenda, not related to corruption, because they had agreed to all his demands, and yet he wants to go ahead with the fast.

What repercussions this high-voltage drama will now have on Indian politics is something that only time will tell. And whether we call it wisdom or folly, one thing is certain - the Congress is definitely walking on a thin rope. And with actions like these, while it is performing its dangerous balancing act, instead of encouraging crowds to clap hands, it seems to be only encouraging them to throw stones.

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